As we begin 2022, many of us may be making New Year’s resolutions to lose weight. Christmas is often a time of over-indulgence and if your weight was getting you down before Christmas, then perhaps it is even more so now. Rather than starting an extreme fad diet, it is far better to start to change the way you view food and to take on a more mindful approach to eating. Mindfulness is the ability to be fully engaged in the present moment; aware of what you are doing, thinking and feeling, while at the same time having an accepting and non-judgemental attitude towards those experiences. Taking a mindful approach to weight loss is not about depriving yourself of “bad” foods, but about becoming aware of your eating habits and paying more attention to what you are doing when you’re eating. The idea is to eliminate mindless eating.
Mindless eating happens when your brain is distracted while eating, and you end up eating more because you are not aware of how much food you are consuming, e.g. eating while watching TV. Research carried out by researchers at the University of Southern California found that participants ate 30% less when eating with their non-dominant hand. By eating this way, it breaks down the automaticity of eating because it is not as easy to eat with your other hand. It slows down the process of eating, and you have to focus harder on what you are doing. This gives your brain a chance to catch up with your stomach and re-asses how full you feel. Another research study published in the Journal of Health Psychology in 2015, found that those who ate on the go ate 5 times more chocolate than those sitting down. This is because when you are distracted and doing other things, you are mindlessly eating.
Research by Jenkins & Tapper (2014) found that the mindfulness technique Passengers on the Bus, was shown to be effective in reducing participants’ consumption of chocolate. This technique involves you imagining that you are driving a bus (symbolising your life), with passengers (representing your thoughts, memories, feelings and urges). Some of the passengers are encouraging, but some are not. They don’t like where you are going and are trying to stop you by saying discouraging things. If you try to argue with them, they just shout louder. If you kick them off the bus, you have to stop the bus and put your journey on hold. If you change direction, they may quieten down for a bit but you are moving further away from your goal. The only way to reach your destination is to let the passengers say what they like, and carry on driving anyway. After all, you are the bus driver, and you have to ignore your passengers and concentrate on driving the bus where you want it to go.
This technique helps you to develop the skill of noticing your thoughts and stepping back from them, rather than automatically acting on them. This skill is referred to as cognitive defusion. It is a really powerful life skill and has been found to aid behaviour change across a number of research studies. It’s the difference between thinking you would fancy something sweet and automatically reaching for the biscuit tin, compared to noticing this thought and stopping to think twice before you reach for the tin.
My approach combines a number of evidence based techniques from hypnosis, mindfulness and CBT to help you achieve change in your life. If you are interested in finding out more about cognitive behavioural hypnotherapy and how it can help you to lose weight, contact me to book a free no-obligation consultation call. If you found this article helpful and would like to see more content in the future, please follow me on Facebook or LinkedIn.